When life hands you cancer, make cancer-ade: via lemonade stand, 6yo boy raises $10K for dad's chemo

A story making the rounds this week: Drew Cox, a 6 year old boy in Texas, "decided to sell lemonade to help his father with medical bills." His dad, Randy Cox, has a rare form of metastatic cancer, diagnosed a few months ago. The family says Drew's lemonade stand earned more than $10,000. They have an online fundraising site here, where they're trying to raise more.

I am currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, diagnosed about four months ago. When I saw various versions of this story popping up on news sites, several thoughts came to mind.

First, hooray for this child. I hope his dad gets the treatment he needs, that the treatment is successful, and that the family doesn't go into debt or have to forego treatment for lack of funds.

But second: this is a disgrace. I hate it when stories like this are flogged in media as "feel-good" stories. This story should make America feel ashamed, not feel good. Seriously? A working father gets cancer, and the family has to rely on charity, and a lemonade stand manned by their 6 year old son, to obtain life-sustaining medical treatment?

It's not the first such lemonade/chemo-money story to make the rounds in the media, wrapped up in feel-good. When life hands you cancer, the news narrative seems to be, just make cancer-ade!

Well, I have cancer. I have insurance. I still pay what is for me a huge out-of-pocket sum, even after my insurance, for each chemo infusion every two weeks. As a wise fellow cancer patient told me, if the disease doesn't kill you, the medical bills just might.

And what's worse, that $10K they raised on the lemonade stand won't get you very far. Depending on the provider, the drug, and your insurance coverage, that might even be the out-of-pocket cost for one single infusion (and chemo generally involves a lot more than just one infusion). Cancer treatment in America is expensive.

Last night on Twitter, I hosted a sort of impromptu retweet-fest, selecting and RTing stories from my followers — stories of people who went bankrupt because of cancer treatment costs, stories of people who didn't receive treatment they needed for lack of funds, stories of people who did outrageous or humiliating things to come up with cash for cancer treatment, stories of people who died in poverty because of the high cost of cancer treatment in America.

These lemonade stand stories make me feel nothing but outrage. We who have cancer must launch online fundraising drives and lemonade stands and beg for charity so that we can live—while drug companies and insurance providers reap unprecedented profits?

Fuck that. Just fuck it.

The moral of all those chemotherapy lemonade stand stories is this: If you have cancer in America, and you are not sitting on a big pile of cash, then God help you. Because our health care system sure as hell won't.

More: KLTV, and MSNBC.

Sicko filmmaker Michael Moore links to this Boing Boing post from his Facebook—there's a lively conversation there.

Also, I've rounded up the conversation I had with Twitter followers here at Storify: "On Cancer and Cost in America."

Oh, and: Save Walter White. [*]


  1. You tell ’em Xeni! Our health care payment system in this country is really screwed up. 

    I work with a non-profit cancer support group, and one of the things we do is try to keep families from losing their homes and card and everything else they need to live.

      1.  We’re called Candlelighters, a childhood cancer peer support group. Our chapter is run entirely by parents of kids with cancer, including me.

    1. So screwed up that a show about a dealing meth could believably set  its’ premise as a high school chemistry  teacher would decide to pay for his cancer treatments by making methamphetamine.

  2. I hear you, but if we were to have affordable health care for everyone then that would mean the death of Freedom™.

    1. Why? I don’t know how old you are but when I was young insurance companies were NON-PROFIT. Blue Cross was founded as a non-profit. Insurance and medical care were affordable because insurance companies weren’t all about the bottom line. They were about care.  This changed when Reagan pushed to change the laws, allowing insurance companies to suddenly become profit centers.

      I don’t know a single person who expects free health care. But everyone deserves affordable health care that doesn’t exclude huge portions of their bodies.

      Health care should be like a buffet — There are always those who abuse a buffet and eat more than their share, but the majority eat an average amount, and a few eat very little. This is how health care should be — everyone has insurance they can afford even if some folks use way more than they are paying because some folks never get sick. There’s nothing wrong with spreading the cost of something across the board.

    2. Is that a serious comment? How much choice do you have in your healt provider now?  Most of us are given an insurance company based upon our job and from that have to choose doctors within that plant, if we had universal health care then wouldn’t every doctor be under the plan?

        1. The sad thing, SecreteSauce, is that there’s plenty of conservatives/libertarians out there that say that kind of horseshit every single day.  We are so inundated with their stupidity that even your sarcasm might slip past the radar.  It’s that bad…

    3. no it wouldnt^ that is a typical non-educated frame of mind based on what exactly?! ever hear of medicaid?! ever consider if every american paid ONLY 1% of wages toward this universal care (medicaid)AND PAID FOR NOTHING else by way of healthcare, how great that would be? no more big profits for providers/insurance co/etc! duh, its a NO brainer! Canada’s done it, Austrailia does it! many europeans nations do it & IT DOES WORK! you & everyone else AGAINST it have been brainwashed to believe if we go that way, that’ll be the death of our nation, well guess what?? if everyone is covered & everything is preventative then you wont have folks fighting cancer & other diseases at high costs. folks are paying waaaaaay more than a flat 1% rate right now, without even knowing they are, paying for that big greedy jaugernaut system called untamed healthcare

      1. Whilst Australia has a public health system that it is quite good, there is also a private system running by its side. Things like medications are virtually never free, although if you’re on a pension or have very low incomes you can get them very cheap if they’re ‘supported’. On top of that at most doctors offices there will be some kind of out of pocket fee. Doctors can charge whatever they like for the appointments and Medicare gives you a set rebate on any appointment with a GP. If your doctor charges $50 you’ll be out about $15, $70 you’ll be out $35, etc.
        Also I *think* @SecreteSauce:disqus was *probably* being sarcastic.

    1. I’m a libertarian, and I want to say that the US health care system is a bureacratic, poorly incentivized, theater of cruelty that places an undue burden on the uninsured, and captured and distorted by corporations with enormous vested interests and little incentive to fix it. The simple fact is that many state-run universal health systems around the world provide better care under a number of metrics, not least the provision of effective, affordable care for those that most need it.

      There’s no “but” here. I hold out some hope that there’s a model of healthcare that works and better fits my idea of freedom and economics, but the idea that our current system is anything but a huge, overregulated failure is crazy, and the Republican policy of defending it using emotional arguments of a protecting a “free market” is deeply inaccurate, whether you think that the free market isn’t a good solution to healthcare, or you think it *is*. 

      What we have in the US is neither a decent state-run system nor an actual market solution to healthcare provision. And while people want to reactionarily refuse to even innovate in this space, because of the dead weight of a ecosystem that was and continues to develop in the worse combination of distorted incentives, lack of transparency and high barriers of entry, plus captured regulators responding not to the real problem, but simply what they’re being told by experts who are hugely invested in the current system.

      1. What we have in the US is neither a decent state-run system nor an actual market solution to healthcare provision

        It’s a for-profit system for most Americans.  The actual “market solution” to healthcare “provision” is yet another libertarian pipedream, unfortunately.  We need a real single payer system for health care.  It’s attainable.  It’s humane.  We need it now.  Wasting time on pipedreams is literally killing Americans as we speak.

    1. That would be great, and just might happen. But isn’t Xeni’s whole point that in a society of such wealth and power things like basic cancer treatment should just somehow provided?

      Lemonade stands and websites are great, but I think they surely can’t work for everyone and we need some kind of system in place that meets people’s basic health care needs. I happen to prefer single payer.

      1. Given my experience, I’d say a whole fuckload of both.

        (Had cancer w/ a million dollars major medical limit – blew through that and then some, no problem. Provided me one excellently timed joke involving feeling like a million bucks.)

        1. The fundamental problem is that the cost of treating major illness is not priced for “consumers” — and can’t be. Collectively, a developed nation can cover the collective cost of healthcare; when you try to divvy it out on a per-patient basis, the numbers fall apart, because you have to bill individually and put a pricetag on every procedure and have billing mechanisms and reimbursement mechanisms and collections procedures and insurance discounts and so on, instead of having true collective bargaining power. That’s even before you factor in the incentive for insurance companies to deny reimbursement.

          The libertarian argument is that making all pricing explicitly per-patient will create market incentives to reduce those prices. This is pure fantasy for about eighty different reasons, and there are precisely zero credible real-world examples to back it up.Healthcare is the ultimate “if you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it” commodity. Because in a country where people’s largest purchase is a six-figure sum for a house, amortised over 30 years, a seven-figure sum for cancer treatment simply does not compute. What works in the real world? Price controls, hard bargaining, universal risk pooling. This is not quantum physics. There are lots of variations on the theme around the world, none of which seem to have people cursing their loss of FREEDOM™, probably because they have the freedom not to live in fear of being financially ruined.

          1. You are spot on. I will add that health isn’t a commodity–can’t be. It’s not a natural economic exchange.

            When we’re talking about cars, it’s easy to decide not to have a BMW. If you can afford it, and it’s worth it to you, great. But you don’t need such an expensive car. For some people, even a Honda Civic is more than they want to pay for or need. A beat up old Pontiac does the job for them. Some of us can even get by pretty well with no car at all. If cars are over priced, or too badly made, or just not meeting a consumer need, we can opt out of the purchase, and car companies have to respond, or go out of business.

            But there is no way NOT to use the heath care system. At some point in your life, you will spend a couple of nights in a hospital, or else suffer greatly or perhaps die.

            Furthermore, if, gods forbid, your child gets a terrible disease, you will empty your savings, sell all your possessions and even steal if you have to to try to save her life. 

            There is no upper limit to the value of adequate health care, and there is no way to avoid needing health care. Yet, we let profit making companies handle the arrangements. 

            I’m certainly not saying that health care suddenly becomes free if there’s no profit motive. I am saying that the profit motive has no place in a unavoidable service in which the rules of normal economic activity just doesn’t apply.  

    1. The system has no incentive to reduce costs. This is because the folks generating the costs aren’t penalized for making the costs higher. It’s a vicious circle.

      There is also the current expectation, partially fueled by malpractice lawyers, that every healthcare error should result in a multimillion dollar payout (mostly to the lawyers!) This results in needless tests being performed. There’s no one to decide the best balance of cost and effective care level.

      The trouble is that the system is so entrenched, with its lobbyists so in control of Congress, that it can’t get changed without a seismic event occurring.

    2. Providers charge a lot more than they would really have to if they were just responsible for providing care. Unfortunately, due to the ‘health insurance’ nature of our system, providers are spending 50% of their income on admin staff to handle billing. A doctor’s office can’t function without a full time biller. That’s a lot of overhead. So, if it weren’t for b, a wouldn’t be as much of an issue.

      1. Not only are there the administrative costs associated with third-party payers, there’s the issue of Medicare unilaterally setting prices for some services and underpaying the providers.  Providers end up charging private pay and insurance customers more to make up for the shortfall in Medicare reimbursement rates.  This transfer of underpayment onto the backs of non-government payers adds up to about $90Billion a year, which is more than twice the amount that the healthcare industry ends up absorbing from the uninsured.   This underpayment is also a big incentive for some providers to file claims for procedures and treatments they didn’t actually do.

  3. It’s the fact that the system is broken and insurance companies are somehow trying to make a profit off of people being sick. There’s something fundamentally wrong with insurance companies operating as for-profit entities. All of them, not just health insurance.

    Hang in there, Xeni.

  4. I live up North in a country with universal health coverage. It sure brings up a big ugly bag of different problems that we’re far from having solved but an advanced society ought to provide care to put it’s members back on their feet when sickness strikes. 

  5. A working father gets cancer, and the family has to rely on charity, and a lemonade stand manned by a 6 year old, to obtain life-sustaining medical treatment? Fuck this.

    This, exactly.

    Not to mention that our fncked-up system means a lot of people won’t get diagnosed early and even once diagnosed are liable to have their treatment delayed by issues about cost and payment.

  6. Excellent  post — thank you many times over for not only pointing out the financial mess that is our health care system, but the media’s obsession with putting these ridiculous “cancer makes you/your family/your workplace better/more fun/nobler/pinker” slants on stories.

  7. I never give money to things like this, unless I know the people personally. The reason isn’t that I have a cold, dead heart. The reason is that it encourages society to force families to turn to ridiculous charity events instead of building a social safety net that actually protects families and patients.

     And I can’t imagine how desperate a family must be to allow their child to beg for money. Or how desperate this society is that we see this sort of begging all the time and find it socially acceptable.

    1. Well aren’t you a gem?  Teaching “society” a lesson by not giving to people you don’t know who need help.  

      You’re not “teaching” anyone anything, except how to be someone who looks at sick people desperate for help as “beggars”.  

      What “encourages” our society to resort to desperate measures like this is the relentless drive for profits and the avarice of those who make money off of sick people.  What doesn’t “encourage” society to do this is good people who care about other people they don’t even know.  

      In other words, your logic is flawed.  Do you think unemployment benefits “encourage” joblessness and sloth, too?  

      1. kc has a point, though. Other cultures see health care as a state responsibility that they all have a stake in. To leave it up to charity is just abdicating responsibility, because charities can pick and choose who they help, and people don’t have to donate to any charity.

        I’ve worked for some health-care charities, and the results aren’t always pretty. Bald kids with cancer get easy money, chubby kids with uncurable muscular dystrophy get pity money, and unattractive adults with disabilities get no money. This family did ok, but if the father didn’t have a cute little kid advocating on his behalf, they’d be drowning in debt like many other cancer patients.

      2. Do you know what regular donations to ensure the basic survival necessities of all of the needy, not just the attractive/adorable needy, are called in the rest of the world? Yeah, taxes.

        I think it’s OK to feel super weird about paying into individualist responses to structural problems when you’re fighting for the system to reform already. From the outside, it sure looks like the “adorable child spruiking for cancer-ade” feel-good media narrative is one of many narratives soothing everyone into feeling like the health care system won’t ruin THEIR lives, since they are adorable/attractive/worthy/have good connections in the fundraising industry, so when THEY get expensive cancer, it will for sure be taken care of via fundraising drives. I think that deciding not to buy into that bullshit, and agitating for structural change instead, is a perfectly legitimate response.

    2. I’m going to agree with you, I feel really uncomfortable giving to these appeals (and they are constant) because it feels so helplessly wrong, trying to fit a tiny bandaid over the great gaping blood-spurting wound that is healthcare provision in America. Giving dollars to the medical funds of families that happen to have cute children for photo ops, good publicity knowledge, and enough web skills to get their pleas out there doesn’t feel like helping, it feels like rewarding one side in a cage-match for healthcare. What about the families that aren’t so photo-op cute feel-good-story? They need chemo too, and this bizarre American model of shovelling money at charity to band-aid up the hideous structural problems in social service provisions has a scary way of rewarding only the adorable and worthy-seeming. 

      I’m not American, luckily, I was born in a country where universal healthcare is guaranteed, and live in another country where that’s the case. Knowing my privileges, I do try to help when I can, but look, how does that feel, America? I am an Australian who occasionally (reluctantly and feeling weird as hell about it) donates money to assist with the healthcare costs of Americans, and that is just fucking ridiculous. Your system is fucking ridiculous, and the cute-kid-fronted web campaigns spruiking for enough dollars to pay for life-saving treatments for one family at a time are fucking tragic.

      1. As an American, I can tell you it feels fucking tragic.  I grew up in a place where if a country had a hurricane we flew over in some choppers, dropped off some food, set up first aid stations and started cobbling together civilization again.  There wasn’t profit in it, it was just the right thing to do.  Now we have trouble doing that when it happens inside the US.

        The fact that individuals in another continent feel like they need to help any of us out is a pretty sure-fire example that the system is broken.  While this will no doubt anger a great many people who are given healthcare by their jobs and plan on staying there until their Medicare kicks in, I just don’t give a damn:  Affordable universal healthcare is a right and we need to make it happen.

        1. It’s not that we have trouble doing so, it’s that we have let the sociopaths take control…and they’d rather have another personalized gold-plated golf cart than see any money go to aid someone else.

  8. When my retired father was diagnosed with cancer, and it was unclear what expenses his (multiple forms of) insurance would cover, his doctor actually advised my parents that they should sell their home and leave the country after treatment in order to not be left penniless by the bills.  If that’s not an indictment of the health care system in this country, I don’t know what is.
    So yeah, these sorts of “heartwarming” stories just make me mad, too.

  9. Our complete lack of a public healthcare system is really America’s greatest disgrace.

    But hey, it’s that or KOMMUNIZZM!!!

  10. At my work they offer the Aflac supplemental cancer coverage. I have one co-worker who is a cancer survivor, and another who is living with cancer that seems to be controlled for now by an experimental treatment. Seeing the tests they have paid for and the days of work they missed for treatment and doctor’s visits, I signed up for the Aflac coverage for myself.

    The reimbursements you get for screening tests comes close to covering the cost of the premiums. I don’t work for Aflac or anything, but if you have this kind of coverage available to you, please get it. It covers so many of the costs that your health insurance won’t and it is just plain ignorance to believe that “it will never happen to you.”I agree that we need a bigger safety net in this country. For those of you who have at least this safety net available to us, please take the responsibility now to get the coverage I hope you will never need.

    And best of luck Xeni on your treatment.

  11. To both Xeni and Walter White: good luck with your cancer.

    As someone who’s lost too many loved ones to cancer, who’s seen how terrible it is even for those who can afford treatment, I can’t imagine why we live in a society that allows companies to profit from people with cancer or cut them off if or when they’re no longer profitable.

    As hard as it is to laugh about cancer, though, I’m always reminded of this joke a friend of mine came up with: “I was born under Cancer, sign of the crab. I’m two diseases nobody wants.”

  12. The worst story I’ve heard was of an acquaintances’ American aunt getting diagnosed with cancer and having to decide whether to sell her house to pay for treatment that might not save her, or forgo treatment and die at home. She kept her house.

    1. Sometimes I wonder why people in that situation don’t go all Charles Bronson on their insurers.

  13. Its great we live in digital world… stories like this get real benefit of  binary revolution…

    Use of revolutionary social apps like youtube/facebook/greatiful helping to spread the news faster helps people more than we can think of…

    best luck…

  14. Thanks for this.  We are essentially the only industrialized country that does not provide, in some form, universal health care for it’s citizens.  We also spend, per capita, between two and three times as much on health care as other first world countries.  And we get measurably worse results. 

    To the poster above who wondered where the high costs come from, it’s complicated, but a huge portion can be traced back to insurance industry overhead and the costs the private insurance system system creates.  Some doctors in my area will discount their regular fees 50% if you pay directly and they don’t have to deal with insurance billing. That should be a hint. 

    I wish some of my young friends could internalize what you are saying- the ones who are opposed to ACA (“Romneycare- Obamacare”) because they “don’t want to be forced to buy insurance- I’m healthy”.  Right.  One day you’re healthy, the next day you aren’t.  I’d much prefer single payer- Medicare for all as a solution, but ACA is a step in the right direction.  As an entrepreneur in technology, who must buy insurance on the individual market, I see the way our current system stifles risk taking in the economy as another, hidden, cost. 

    And for the Libertarians- for many excellent economic reasons- asymmetry of information being foremost- market solutions just don’t work in health care, and never will.  Friedrich Hayek (a libertarian guru- at least to those who haven’t actually read him) said:  
    “Where, as in the case of sickness and accident, neither the desire to avoid such calamities nor the efforts to overcome their consequences are as a rule weakened by the provision of assistance — where, in short, we deal with genuinely insurable risks — the case for the state’s helping to organize a comprehensive system of social insurance is very strong.”

    Best wishes.

  15. This story makes me glad to live in Canada. FREE healthcare. FREE chemo treatments, surgery, radiation, tests, medicine in the hospital..The ONLY time you are paying is for medicine at home IF you have no coverage and only a SMALL minority of people don’t have any type of coverage..you even get full coverage on Welfare and Disability. So to say that it can’t be free? That’s just pure crap! I LOVE my healthcare!

    Need to see your doctor? FREE….need a trip to the ER? FREE…If I get in an accident or sick or anything I NEVER worry…It is covered universally.

    1. Sabrina, there is no such thing as free health care. Our health care costs are socialized, and we pay through the progressive tax system, or direct premiums if you live in Alberta. Of course, people with low income aren’t paying taxes or premiums.
      Not all chemo treatments and medicines are covered, and coverage varies by province. This is also true for diseases and ailments other than cancer. Other drugs/treatments are only covered if you carry private insurance. The Canadian system is preferable to the American one, but it isn’t the perfect all encompassing warm hug some make it out to be.

      1. The Canadian system is preferable to the American one, but it isn’t the perfect all encompassing warm hug some make it out to be.

        It’s a warm hug compared to the Iron Maiden of America’s health care “system.”

        1. Being shot and dissected by an invading martian tripod is a warm hug compared to America’s health care system.

  16. This is pretty disgraceful.  Basic care should be available to ALL.  Cancer should not be a disease of the haves and the have nots.  I, too have excellent health insurance (albeit at a cost of over $600.00 per month as a small business owner) but my co-pays are STAGGERING. Even five years post active treatment, my “maintenance meds” are a fortune (covered by insurance but my out of pocket, a fortune….. and expected to be lifelong).  My follow up doctor visits are frequent and involve several different doctors including surgeons and oncologists.  The co pays can be as high as $120.00 per visit if labs are done.  I don’t have any answers but I know it’s wrong for a six year old to be raising funds for his daddy.  Those funds will not go far at all.  One infusion (as I’m sure you are well aware) is many thousands of dollars.  It’s not only the cost of the meds…. it’s the cost to run the facility and the cost of the equipment used to administer the chemo.  It’s the salaries of the nurses who MUST monitor us when we are in those chairs.  They are highly skilled and people do have severe reactions requiring doctors to be readily available in case someone starts crashing from the poison.  We have little ones selling lemonade and grown women drinking pink koolaid from the pink ribbon straw….. and we are no closer to meaningful change in the treatment of most cancers since we started trying to solve the puzzle.  

  17. Well said Xeni. One of the reasons I fought so hard for single payer universal coverage was stories like this.

    But the right wing backed media shouted this down in public while in private drugs and insurance execs pushed deal with the WH.

    This horrible stories you heard last night on the tweetfest? Stories like that were gathered, but not used by Obama/Biden.
    You know how powerful they were. But the people who were used as examples were going to have their lives torn open by the Michelle Malkin and the RW media. So on top of telling you story you will be subject to judgement for “not living right” or having marble countertops.

    1. Isn’t it crazy how the real life tragic stories from regular working Americans get drowned out in all that bullshit? I mean, one night of Twitter back and forth and I read dozens, DOZENS of horrible tragic stories from real people. Any one of them trumps the BS we heard during the health care debate. Why were these voices so ignored? I just don’t get it.

      1. These voices were ignored because they could have worked. And if they started working the lash back would be furious. It would not only be Michelle Malkin’s Flying Monkey’s it would be the front groups like American’s for Prosperity telling us the opposite stories and making up data.

        Look at the Trayvon Martin story. The dozens of stories you cited would have to be vetted to be “perfect” some that looked perfect would be exposed as not, discrediting the entire story.

        Listen to the clip that I posted below. That is just one of the ways that people who want to maintain the status quo will act.

  18. UK story here. I have Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma. Three month stay in hospital, hugely expensive course of treatment for hospital cross-infection with Clostridium difficile, chemotherapy, now I’m home, transport to and from hospital and daily visits from physiotherapist to help with the proximal Myopathy the cancer induced. Cost to me? Nothing. Zero, Nada. Considerations governing treatment? Is it the best treatment for this condition? Right, we”ll go with it.

    It strikes me that the American right are carrying out a policy of genocide against the non-rich. Not even just against the poor.

      1. Well the thing is, even absent health-care entirely, a good number of us will live into our 30s.  That’s leaves plenty of good, working years in adulthood in which to serve our masters before we die.

    1. I’m sorry you’re in this fight, too. I’d be lying if I said I weren’t envious, on behalf of all of us cancer patients in the US, for your health care system!

  19.  Just hit this wall myself. Early sixties and needing a lengthy series of expensive treatments with marginal insurance and recent under-employment. So do I spend my retirement savings on the gamble that I’ll get a cure and then retire into poverty?  My college education didn’t prepare me to think about situations like this.

    I am persuaded that a for-profit insurance industry is unlikely to provide health care. It is about creating billings. One has health care when modern medicine is about outcomes, not incomes.

      1.  As you point out, the trick is to maintain a sense of outrage when news-lite puts a wholesome  family-values spin on an otherwise horrible story. And then to work in the small steps as one can for change in how health care is provided: speak up and be heard. We still vote in this country, some of us anyway, and we still (kinda) have the Bill of Rights that allows us to petition our government. – What is frightening to me is how we let what we call “care” lapse so far.

  20. i’m 31 and can’t see an intelligent policy like universal health care happening in my lifetime. the american narrative stresses individualism and fearmongering is an american art. people would rather buy lemonade, have their car washed or get a rubber bracelet than protest.   

    thank you for writing this xeni and i wish you well in your recovery.

  21. I’m so glad that Xeni brings up the  role the media plays in this while ignoring the larger issue of how sick this whole situation is. Elisabeth Warren did some of the ground breaking research that shows that 50 percent of the bankruptcy’s in America were cause because of health care costs.

    These included people WITH insurance too.

    Want to know how the right wing respond to suggestions that people can’t get the affordable care they need? They scream that if you have the money you can get what you want and they say “programs” are out there to take care of people.

    I’d like people to listen to this audio clip. This was during the ACA debate. A doctor called up RW radio host Brian Sussman. He was explaining how the insurance company was trying to kick a woman off their insurance.


    It is one of the purest examples of how many of the RW think about health care in America.

    1.  “With the government system, there will be rationing!”

      Much like Medicare, I suppose.  Sigh.

  22.  My heart goes out to this family and my hopes are with them but I feel I need to say something else on this sensitive yet alarming issue. Doctors at the University of Alberta have discovered Dichloroacetic acid known as DCA cures most cancer with very little to no side effects and cost only a tiny fraction of what chemo does. Simply add to water and drink it. From what I understand they just need to research the dosages and NOT if it is harmful or not because it has been used safely for 30 years on humans for other rare conditions. Chemo is a barbaric way of treating cancer, it’s like trying to treat mental illnesses with electro shock therapy. The only problem with DCA and why it isn’t being used for treating cancer is the big corporations won’t spend the money on the research because DCA is an old drug that they can’t make $$big profits$$ off of so funding it’s research is not a priority. I would just like to note for fairness that I am not a doctor or a medical expert I have gathered this information easily from the internet in several online news videos and articles and also Wikipedia. It is only my intention to try to help everyone by sharing this information. If new facts have come to light that contradicts what I have reported here I am not aware of them yet. I do keep checking on the issue from time to time and if there is any new information I will share it. I only want to help save lives by sharing this information not raise false hopes so please research this if it matters to you (as it does to me) and make your decisions based on what you find. Good luck to us all, lets WIN the War on Cancer. ~ Reg

  23. “There’s something fundamentally wrong with insurance companies operating as for-profit entities.”

    Now take that sentence, and replace “insurance companies” with “grocery stores”, or “home builders”, or “car makers”, and you have a runaway situation. Grocery stores operate for profit. It’s seems like a basic right. Why aren’t grocery stores non-profit and regulated to make sure they have what we need? Because we would be standing in bread lines if that were the case. And what about housing, and transportation? Some more things you want to banish to the public sector due to the eeeevils of profit?

    For-profit isn’t the problem. Non-profits can pay out ginormous sums of money to its employees if it wants to (it just doesn’t have to pay any shareholders). Profits are simply a set of signals of what is needed and where. If the price of healthcare is too high, then more doctors should be able to move into an area, offer competition of lower prices, and drive things down. But unfortunately, the regulations are too drawn out to support such a free enterprise activity from taking place!

    The real problem is that I can’t shop for health insurance across the country. I can buy a car, a DVD player, life insurance, groceries, and millions of other products from anywhere. But the government has outlawed shopping for health insurance from other places. Each state gets to decide what is covered and what is not. In some states, health insurance includes hair transplants, sex change operations, and other crazy stuff, so of COURSE health insurance is absurdly expensive. If congress did it’s job, and truly regulated interstate commerce, it would strike down these state-level trade barriers and allow us to buy health insurance from anywhere in the country! 

    Don’t leave out tort reform. Since lawyers can sue for millions based on the smallest mistake, health practicioners have to buy huge gobs of lawyer insurance. Well guess what? It ain’t free! We have to pay for it.

    Before you fly off the handle about the profits of insurance companies, please look up profit MARGINS. When you whine about “profits” you demonstrate your economic ignorance by not recognizing the important of a slim profit margin. Lots of industries make way bigger profit MARGINS than the ones you look to shoot down, notably the oil companies and insurance companies. Heck, the governments makes more money off a gallon of gas than Chevron does.

    The government has all but killed the idea of free enterprise in the health insurance market, so you can’t shop around and buy “extreme cancer insurance”. Instead, the government regulates what they cover and don’t cover, so no wonder there aren’t lots of radical options to pick from. There is no money to be made, so why would anyone stick their neck out when the government will just cut it off? BTW, you want to put everyone on Medicare? Guess who denies the most claims? Medicare! Why do you think other countries are not letting ambulances unload their patients until a bed is ready? To keep “processing times” down to within government written limits.

    1. Now take that sentence, and replace “insurance companies” with “grocery stores”, or “home builders”, or “car makers”, and you have a runaway situation.

      Why stop there? This slippery slope is a mile long. You can even say that healthcare reform will force the nationalization of Drew’s lemonade stand, because, really anyone can say anything once the thin edge of the wedge is jammed into a discussion.

    2. The real problem is that I can’t shop for health insurance across the country.

      Yes, then you can be denied life saving medical  procedures from an expensive Insurance policy from a different state.  Hooray…

      Some more things you want to banish to the public sector due to the eeeevils of profit?

      Just come out and say it.  If people die because it’s profitable, you’re fine with that.  At least just admit your basic values.

      By the way, many of the ideas you think you came up with?  You were fed these with a spoon from industry and I can prove it.  Please, for your own sake and for the sake of the country please watch this interview in its entirety.

      Take the red pill, Neo…

    3. I realize that arguing for any sort of economic sensibility in this debate gets the usual lazy, ad-hominem attacks of being a heartless Kochtopus stooge, but making care “free” or attempting to instate price controls is going to be an excellent way to debase the quality of care even further and limit the options available to patients. 

      Since the price tag on the “free” care is hidden as part of the larger, growing costs, we can just keep ignoring the cost overruns. And while those costs go up as care gets more advanced, we’re going to be locked in a very real spiral between cost per-capita and the spending limits (if any) on providing care. 

      And of course doctors and  insurance providers will be overjoyed to stay in a business where they’re open to debilitating lawsuits, publicly restricted cost adjustments, and requirements to provide services that force them to operate at a loss.

      1. making care “free” or attempting to instate price controls is going to be an excellent way to debase the quality of care even further and limit the options available to patients.

        Please feel free to bombard us with credible citations that show that countries that have socialized medicine have worse health than the US.

      2. Since the price tag on the “free” care is hidden as part of the larger, growing costs, we can just keep ignoring the cost overruns.

        It clearly isn’t: when healthcare is treated as a collective right and a collective responsibility, it’s held to high scrutiny and is a subject of open political debate, whereas in the US, it’s hidden behind layers of corporate and institutional bureaucracy. In the UK, NICE makes evidence-based assessments on the latest treatments, and its guidance is public, unlike that of your health insurance provider.

        Price controls work. Free or low cost care at the point of delivery works by offsetting expensive treatment for more advanced conditions. It means fewer multi-millionaire specialists and fewer jobs in hospital billing departments, but that’s a price worth paying. There is a lot of evidence to back that up, not least international per-capita numbers, but I realize that it can’t compete with the rumbling in your gut.

    4. Now take that sentence, and replace “insurance companies” with “grocery stores”, or “home builders”, or “car makers”, and you have a runaway situation.

      While I’m at it I’m gonna just go ahead and replace your post with one that actually makes sense. Have fun shopping for that “extreme cancer insurance,” it sounds totally righteous.

    5. The real problem is that I can’t shop for health insurance across the country.

      Jeebus on a jalopy. You really don’t know what would happen if you could? Look at credit card companies in South Dakota. A small state will mortgage itself out to the health insurers, and before long, the only policies available are the bring-your-own-bandages plans offered out of Idaho.

      Again, back to libertarian fantasyland with you, because you’re hooked on a pack of ideological hypotheticals with no evidence that they work in the real world, and yet you repeat them as mantras over and over again.

  24. Thanks to the “evil” Obamacare my 22 year old son, who went through chemo and a bone marrow transplant last year was still covered under his parents insurance. Had he not, on top of all he had to go through he would be 100’s of thousands in debt.

  25. It seems weird that an advanced industrial society doesn’t understand the impact that not having universal health care has on the economy. I live in Canada, and although the system is not perfect, I know that if I get sick I can focus on getting better and then getting back to work.

    I totally agree that pushing this story as feel-good candy obscures the fact that something is deeply wrong.

  26. this is a disgrace. I hate it when stories like this are flogged in media as “feel-good” stories. This story should make America feel ashamed, not feel good.

    Thank you for saying this, Xeni, from the bottom of my heart.  It desperately needs to be said.

  27. I was lucky. 

    When my cancer was diagnosed, my doctor put me in touch with an experimental National Institutes of Health program. Once I was in the system, all of my cancer-related treatment (and a lot of treatment that is merely peripheral to cancer) was completely covered. Still is. Will be until the day I die.

    That cashier at the NIH? She’s there to REIMBURSE me for any travel expenses I might have spent to get there. Really.

    The doctors there are the best this country has to offer and will take as much time with you as you require. No “bum’s rush” to get on to the next patient and no talking down to me like I was an idiot. I am grateful to be there, but sad when I think of the millions who don’t have this opportunity. 

    Let me tell you, single payer is the most efficient, most affordable way to health care coverage for all. I know it works. I’m alive today because of it and because my doctor went to med school with someone who wound up working miracles at NIH. Care like this should be the rule in our country, not the exception. Too bad it’s a walled garden because of the outrageous control of the industrial drug and health-care cabal in the US today.

    And trust me, if the Republicans gain further control of our government, you can say good-bye not only to the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and PBS, but to NIH as well. Mark my words.

    Keep fighting the good fight, Xeni, and I wish you good health!

  28. Not having insurance when I was diagnosed with cancer was my saving grace.

    Thank you, Washington, and Social Security.

    Fuck you, insurance industry.

  29. Seems really backward, too, that people feel happier donating a few dollars to a cause like this but against paying a % or two more in tax to fund a proper public health system where this wouldn’t be necessary.

  30. Xeni, really good point.

    I am so sorry that you are afflicted with cancer. With almost all serious illnesses and the utterly pathetic state of the insurance and medical industry here, there are good enough alternatives. Medical tourism.

    I recently visited India and was blown away by the quality of many of the medical facilities. The for-profit insurance scam is just about getting started in India (thanks to you know who!), but in many places there aren’t any middle-men. Further, many Indian doctors are US trained, have imported the latest and greatest equipment from Germany and Western Europe at aggressively low prices, and are able to comfortably profit from utilizing these and amortizing the cost over the large patient base.  What this translates to is extremely reasonable costs – dare I say, a twentieth of the comparable out-of-pocket here – for even serious treatment options including chemo and radiation.

    With the explosion of online information, most seriously afflicted patients are so well-informed of their condition and follow-up diligently, verifying and researching their condition and carefully cross-checking any treatment plans in advance. Such patients could go a step further and also research the best and most communicative doctors in an Indian city of choice, and stay in a comfortable environment through the treatment, while being able to afford the expense and not dying through the weight of medical bills.

    This option may not be for everyone, but for the younger and more driven/motivated, who can possibly get some pointers and starters from someone in the large Indian diaspora, it is an excellent option that short-circuits the insurance circus and puts the person in charge.

    I lost a family member to a horrendous tumor recently. We were fortunate to be able to somehow afford the costs and get the supposedly optimal treatment at the best hospital/s here. As someone who coordinated and decoded every-step, every procedure and every twist and turn, I can now safely say that I would feel as comfortable getting everything done offshore than here. Unless it is some condition that is singularly unique, it comes down to the skills, experience and management capabilities of the administering physician. These abundantly exist in gifted individuals who have trained at the best places yet choose to live abroad. We all can surely avail of that outside this completely wrecked and financially-warped system.

    1.  This is why we need to fight again and keep fighting for single payer heath insurance. I worked 60 hr. weeks most of my life as a single mother when my husband left and refused to help us. When I got cancer I lost my jobs and I didn’t own anything so I qualified for disability that I had been, like every American (except the top 1%) paying into all my life. I would watch others in the chemo room with their computers online fighting their insurance providers for coverage. Talking on phones about where the money was going to come from and fears of losing all they had worked for in a lifetime. I however never had to fill out a claim form. I never had to do anything but show up and pay $3 per treatment. All drugs were $1 to $3. I was able to focus on healing while they couldn’t!  I felt horrible for them knowing how sick I was and how little energy I had to fight anyone much less a big insurance company. It needs to happen folks. Single payer health insurance. Fight for it.

  31. “Cancerade” will probably be as effective as conquering the debts incurred by cancer treatment as Vit. C is as chemotherapy.

    I haven’t read all the comments – which I imagine are incredible in and of themselves if the one above mine is any indication – but I do know that situations like this hit the hot buttons of every single cancer patient out there, from guilt, to outrage, to shame.

    One thing I can tell you is that in Harris County, Texas (where Houston is) anyone without insurance can receive excellent cancer treatment via the Texas Medical System that is administered by residents from MD Anderson.  A friend of mine with uterine cancer had her life saved there.  Dallas has an extensive medical center as well and in addition to funds, which I’m sure this family needs, the patient needs an excellent social worker.  Those professionals are worth their weight in gold. There are resources out there; but it takes diligence and determination to ferret them out.  It’s almost as if you need another full-time job navigating your care ON TOP of being a patient.  I know.  I’ve been there and I pay outrageous premiums now for having had cancer.  

    Yes, I’d rather travel with the money I pay for insurance, or donate it to an organization that truly assists and doesn’t just spin hot air.  So first, let’s find a way that this man can receive the treatment he needs while keeping up the convo and heat for an equitable and universal health system.

    Thank you, Xeni.   You’re a gem.


  32. I am so lucky to live in Australia, in many ways but particularly for healthcare. If you have cancer here, you get the best of care and its all on Medicare. My father got cancer a few years ago, and I could not believe how well he was treated, how caring, and we were loaned all sorts of equipment for home. He died at home but he could have gone to a very nice palliative care facility if we decided that, again for free. If only America would study our system and put in something similar. I don’t know where your new Medicare came from but it doesn’t seem to work as well.

    1. I don’t know where your new Medicare came from but it doesn’t seem to work as well.


      Allaroo, I am very sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing.

  33. I have Breast Cancer and was diagnosed the end of February.  I am going through radiation now.  They did a lympectomy on me and sent the tumor away to be tested (Oncotype DX Test).  I am a school teacher in WV.  We get paid about 49,000 a year with 35 years of experience.  I have a daughter in college who can not  get grants.  I make too much income.  I cry over the Cancer bills that are coming in.  I have insurance but, it doesn’t cover it all.  They won’t keep the radiology department open later for me to teach and get off work and go.  I have to leave work early.  The hospital won’t pay the radiologists overtime so, they won’t work past 4:00. It is WV University Hospital (Cancer Center).    My life doesn’t matter but, money does.  Even if there was a cure for Cancer they wouldn’t come out with it because it wouldn’t produce the money.  Cancer is a money maker.  My daughter had this eight years ago when she was pregnant with my first grandchild.  She and he are well.  Eight years later I (grandma) got it.  I am out of sick leave. I have had to ask my colleagues to donate leave to me.  I feel like half a person.  They tell you to think positive but, it is difficult when you see the bills and what you have to face.  All the treatments change your quality of life.  My dad died with lung cancer over 30 years ago.  He was 51.  I thought by now with all the advances in technology, etc. they would have a cure for this stuff.  Cutting off body parts, loosing hair, killing healthy cells doesn’t sound like a cure to me but, it sure brings money to the medical profession. I can’t believe that so many people suffer with this each year but, there is no cure. Yet, we can spend money, resources, etc. on war.

    1. Lynn, my heart is breaking for you. It is so unfair and unjust that you have to go through this. Thank you for sharing your story here. May you find health, and may there be a solution for your medical debt. This is so, so, so wrong. 

  34. That $10,000 will cover three days treatment, maybe. Odds are that boy is going to grow up without a dad, and poor, too.

  35. If I’m ever diagnosed with cancer, I may have to consider suicide as a viable option; I have good insurance, and I even got supplemental insurance in the event of cancer, but this is leading me to believe that no insurance I can EVER buy will be close to sufficient.

    1. I sometimes wonder how long before some might perform self-immolation.  With over 45,000 agonizing deaths per year due to a lack of health insurance, it may just be a matter of time until someone does this in their last moments as a protest against our barbaric, corrupt, inhumane, for-profit health “care” system in the USA.

  36. As a physician I am agonizing over your stories.  There is no excuse for this health care system.  No sense in getting angry at insurance companies.  We have a national law that says any for profit company must have the interests of the stockholders as its primary interest.  We have given the health of this nation over to people whose business it is to maximize their personal income.  What did we think would happen?

    I am a physician member of Physicians for a National Health Program.  That group, PNHP,  has good documentation that  we can have a national health care system with no increase in costs if we just get rid of the insurance industry, and use all the money the governments (national and state) currently give to the insurance industry to the national health program instead.  Private insurance takes 30% of all money given to them for profit;   and 70 % of these government paid health care costs go through private insurance companies.  If we cut out the middle men who take the 30% profit, that profit money could go to cover the health costs of all the uninsured.  We would have some unemployed insurance agents.  I think we could swallow that as a nation, since we have swallowed so many unemployed construction workers, manufacturing workers, restaurant workers,  etc,  during this recession.  This is what every other western nation has done for the health of their nations and we should do that too.   Libertarians should think twice about whether health is a national interest;  unless you enjoy the idea of the person next to you in a line possibly coughing TB in your direction.  When we gather many people in large groups and live in cities, we need to all work together to help all of us.  All of us will someday get sick.

  37. Hey Xeni…when I first clued in from your posts that you had cancer; I felt sympathetic…but I didn’t really have anything to say: nothing in my experience to compare to, all the dead folk in my circle expire from various traumas and ailments..but not from Big C.

    What a difference a month makes.

    The weird spot on my neck had been there for…a long time.  Two of my co-workers and then my girlfriend started on me to get it checked.  After much sighing and delaying, I did.

    Melanoma of course…but mine is not one of the sad stories. Early detection. Insurance covered by the workplace. And I sit here with a dozen stitches in my neck and after reading these really tragic experiences that people are forced to go through for their care; I am humbled by how luckyluckylucky I am.

    For one moment during my third visit to the hospital for my second surgery I felt a stab of irritation at paying my (negligibly low) co-pay…Then as I lay on my side for 30 minutes as the electric knife singed the bad cells away I thought how much it would cost to pay the skillful Doc and excellent Nurse for the same procedure out of pocket.  I realized right then how myopic and foolish it was to complain about anything related to this experience: and when friends and family started to get ‘overly concerned’ I had to diffuse with all honesty ‘There are so many people with real problems: this is not one.’

    That the richest and most powerful nation in the world cannot put forth a workable system to heal and care for its’ citizens is frankly a disgrace.  I get how intrenched the ‘for profit’ and ‘not rich? too bad’ mentality pervades the very idea of direly needed health care overhaul; but as you so succinctly put it: Fuck that and fuck them.

    A single payer universal care for all our people would be proper and humane; and would do much to shore up the rickety rhetoric of ‘The Shining City on the hill, best of all possible countries’ crowd…

    I hope I see it in my lifetime, and damn well believe I’ll vote for and support those that endeavor to implement same.

    Be safe out there everyone…and get and stay well Xeni.

  38. I’ve read all the above and am appalled! Xeni, you are so right; these feelgood stories should awaken outrage.

    I’ve paid taxes in my home countries for a long time. I’ve not needed to use the healthcare systems in any large way, minor injuries is the largest I’ve needed to use. But I am PROUD to pay my taxes and will not cheat on taxes because I see them as being important. 
    Socialized healthcare has nothing to do with charity and everything to do with the most efficient use of money to run healthcare and the biggest gain for the whole of society. We are healthier and more productive for longer here (in Sweden) and need not panic if we get a treatable disease. That is a GREAT feeling, knowing that IF something goes wrong with me or a family member then that gets taken care of if possible.

    We pay our insurance premiums as taxes. We also pay our school fees (tuition) through taxes.
    That means that I will send my kids to the very best schools available for “free” (that is, I don’t have to sell a kidney or mortgage the house). I DO have to pay pretty high taxes, but those are always just a percentage of my income. No income, no taxes. Unlike the other system where there is no connection between how much you have to pay and your income, ultimately seriously penalizing anyone with less than a hundred grand per year if they end up needing real service (your insurer is going to figure out how not to pay all the costs). My dad had heart surgery. He has a good income and would have had decent insurance. He would still have ended up with sizable insurance bills that would have severely impacted his retirement plans (he would have had to sell his very  nice apartment) had he been in the US. Fortunately, he is in Iceland. Fixed.And again, the healthcare system here is much cheaper per individual. Cheaper, more efficient,  more inclusive, and better results… what’s there not to like? Taxes? Toughen up and pay up!

  39. Luckily – My first foray into the medical world has happened for a happy reason – I am pregnant.

    But this has clued me into how messed up our system is – being charged for expensive tests twice – being tested for things I do not need so the system makes more. Being pressured by practices to choose them (they make bank every time they do a delivery). I feel like a cash machine.
    I also realized I have to study and examine every co-pay bill with care because they (doctors, labs, insurance) are trying to get you anyway they can.

    It’s wrong and a pain especially if you are trying to take care of yourself and keep a healthy outlook.

  40. I agree with this post but at the same time I disagree with the system. They are SUPPRESSING cheaper, more effective cures with less side effects. I know at least three people who reversed their cancer without or in spite of chemo. To get started go to Youtube and type in Graviola. Blessings and support to all of you 

  41. When I went through Chemo for Colon Cancer in 2008 I  had insurance (albeit not very good insurance) and I still ended up shelling out (between premiums, co-pay, deductible, and other “not covered” expenses) $57,000 that year.  I was lucky in that I was able to continue working and could manage to pay that amount.  Still, it was pretty awful to worry about the finances of paying for my life-saving treatments while going through those same treatments.  Good luck, Xeni!

  42. I had breast cancer last year right when we were trying to get pregnant. Because of the chance of early menopause should I need chemo, we had eggs removed.  Despite having good insurance, the whole cancer experience ran us $20k. It’s ridiculous.  Had we not had insurance, I can’t even imagine.  Best wishes with your cancer treatment.

  43. I call this the mayonaise jar syndrome. In our section of the country you encounter mayonaise jars with a slot cut in the top and the face of some cute kid who needs (pick one: kidney, heart, bone marrow or liver transplant; brain surgery; chemo or radiation therapy) but first the family with three other kids and both parents working minimum wage jobs has to come up with $100,000 in cash in advance. The community pitches in with spaghetti suppers, pancake breakfasts, car washes, and lots and lots of mayonaise jars at every check out register all over town. It makes me madder than hell and embarassed for my country every time I see one as I stuff all my available cash into the slot. America you are better than medicine funded by loose change in mayonaise jars.

  44. I feel for you – the healthcare system in the states always amazes me given that in virtually every other aspect of your lives you are so advanced.  
    I live in the UK and my mum had cancer and required extensive chemo over a long time.  Eventually I’m afraid it did get her but all of her treatment was free on the National Health Service, which is fantastic.  It costs the state and taxpayers a fair amount but at the end of the day sick people get treatment regardless of how much money they have.
    The National Health Service has it’s faults but really it is a national treasure and something every civilized society should have.

  45. These stories illustrate why, for all its short comings, the UK’s NHS is so good. I, too, have a form of cancer, which was diagnosed and treated effectively within the NHS system. I recently had my 6 month check and am still in remission. My 41 year old son didn’t have to send his 3 year old son out to sell lemonade to meet the cost of my treatment.

  46. I am eternally grateful that I have the best insurance anyone could have America: UK citizenship. I’ve not been touched by cancer yet but I do have more diseases than I can count and I have seen some of the top experts in the world for them. Yes, I had to wait to see them, but my diseases are (mostly) not life-threatening, just severely life-limiting. I also had long waits on my US HMO before I left the country so I don’t really see much difference. I am back in the US now but you can believe I will go back to the UK if I need major medical care, I don’t trust my supposedly excellent health insurance.

    There is one major drawback to some countries with universal health care: they won’t let me in. I am married to an Australian but am not able to live there with him because I am disabled and might be too much of a drain on their healthcare and disability resources (even though I have never needed benefits, just health care). There was recently a scandal about how an international CEO had to use her personal connections to get residency: she was initially denied immigration just because she is blind. Never mind how much she earns. So recently when my husband worked a year in his home country I had to stay with my parents in the US and visit him on a 90 day visa.

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